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April 05, 2010

Comments

ACT II Austin

As a 24 lay leader of a highly educated young adult crowd (grad students) I would encourage the leader to consider his or her capacity and experience in motivating people and evaluation of interpersonal skills and focusing on these. UMC pastors are required to be seminary educated and this makes a world of difference especially in motivating lay leaders to lead groups in the church to think theologically and understand the substance of why they serve those in need.

The Rev. Andrew J. Bartel

The United Methodist Church is a GREAT place to serve the Kingdom and one that is positioned unlike any other church because of a combination of reasons:

1) We fully support, and rely upon, the leadership and ordination of women. So many other Christian traditions have limited their leadership pool by at least 50% because they exclude women from leadership. (I am a provisional elder, who grew up unchurched, and have been primarily shaped by women preachers prior to seminary).

2) The itineracy is the best vehicle for deploying the preachers to where they are needed. When engaged prayerfully, the cabinet has the ability to take stock of the various preachers' gifts, graces, and growing edges. They also have the ability to see the overall needs of each of the local churches. Because they are not encumbered with the daily pastoral tasks of visitation, sermon prep, and administration of the local church, they can prayerfully spend time strategically making matches that allows God's Spirit to work - pairing needs and giftings, so that both preachers and local churches can grow.

3) The itineracy will allow you to focus on ministry. You won't have to worry about spending unnecessary time keeping up your resume for the next church, or selling yourself to a search committee. Likewise, you won't have to fear being "let-go" because you are preaching too prophetically. The "bonds" of the itineracy are freeing.

4) United Methodism represent the best of both worlds, a balance of extremes, a tension rod if you will, both theologically and organizationally. We are the tension rod between the eastern and western churches, as Wesley himself was highly influenced by the writings of the east. We are the tension rod between the Anglican/Catholic Church and the Reformed tradition as Wesley was highly influenced by the writings of Calvin and his relationships with the pietistic Lutherans and Moravians. We are the tension rod between the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, pairing piety and knowledge, faith and works. We also are the only protestant church that affirms the itineracy, as the Roman Catholics do.

5) In a connexional system like the United Methodist Church, relationships are more deeply cultivated and nurtured. Because we are itinerant, and because we have various denominational agencies and conference programs, we are able to foment deeper relationships with others engaged in Kingdom work. These deeper relationships can lead to a deeper level of trust; afterall, God's very nature, Triune, is about relationship. We are built in God's image, the image of relationship.

6)United Methodists are passionate about salvation AND justice, they are not mutually exclusive to us. We recognize that Christ's commands to love God and our neighbors as ourselves means making sure others have enough to eat, clean water to drink, clothing to wear, and access to health care. We know that our salvation is tied up in your salvation, is tied up with the salvation of all of creation; and so we are called to work not just for compassion, but for justice, getting at the root causes of poverty and oppression and violence in this world.

7)United Methodists are not creedal or overly doctrinal. We agree on the essentials - Grace, Trinity, full divinity and full humanity of Christ, Resurrection, but on non-essentials we affirm liberty, recognizing that we will never agree on all points of theology. Lastly, in all things, we affirm the need to respond lovingly. "Though we may not think alike, may we not love alike?"

8) Our roots are evangelical, taking the Good News to the places where people most need to hear it. With the post-constantinian shift, we are perfectly poised for a return to our roots of evangelicalism.

9) Lastly, you should consider the United Methodist Church, because God is already at work here. It's called Prevenient Grace, and I am inviting you to walk with us as we seek to make disciples for the transformation of the world, together.

~Andy Bartel, provisional elder, Dakotas Annual Conference

Allen Gibson

There's only one reason-- and it has to do with being called by God to do it. One doesn't have to be Methodist to be a Christian, nor does one have to be Methodist to be a pastor. There are wonderful Christian communities that aren't Methodist,and marvelously effective pastors who aren't Methodist.

To be a Methodist Christian and an ordained elder within that community is to accept that Itineracy is part of our DNA-- it has been an important part of who we are ever since Father john organized a movement around his specific method of forming disciples. Wanting to be a UM Pastor and not itinerate would be like wanting to take your family and friends along with you to a heritage, or to want to talk all day long as a monk.

Itineracy and accountability within the system are at the essence of UM spirituality. If they are not your cup of coffee, shall we say, then perhaps you ought not become a UM elder. To be an elder or deacon within the UM church is to enter a religious order, of a sort-- with all of the rules and foibles that pertain to such organizations. It isn't that it's perfect-- it simply is the case that it is what it is.

Does such discipline chafe, even those who have accepted it for their way of being Christian? Absolutely yes! Is Christian discipline of any sort supposed to be easy to accept and live with? Absolutely not!

So the appropriate question is not-- "Can you sell me on the idea of being a UM pastor?" The appropriate question is rather, "Has God called you to be a UM pastor?"

If so, then you have to ask yourself if you are willing to accept the disciplines of this way of life, however imperfectly they may be expressed through the system of Methodism and the personalities of Bishops, cabinets,and other elders.

And if not, then keep seeking-- the God who calls you in such a powerful way to such profound service will lead you to the right place for you to give that service.

Nate

I planted a church this year and prior to this I was on staff at a UMC. I was able to speak and be involved with a great Methodist junior high camp (near Syracuse) and meet many incredible UM people in my 6 years on staff. When we felt God calling me to plant a group from this UMC, we explored all avenues (denominational, partnerships, networks, etc.) and we came to the conclusion that God wasn't calling us to be a UMC church. As I like to tell my friends, I feel like I'm a great Wesleyan but a terrible Methodist (well, a UM anyway).

I met with some really great people in the UMC about planting and they were willing to back us completely but it truly never felt right. Granted, we're a very young church with a demographic targeted at 20-40 year olds and we aren't very liturgically minded. One of the "selling points" of joining the UMC that was made to me was helping to be part of the change that is happening in the UMC. I appreciated that take on their offer but truly didn't feel like I had it in me to go through the rigorous lifestyle of a church planter and reformer. I pray for the UMC and I valued my time spent within the denomination. But, I'm confident we made the right decision by staying independent.

Matt

Are ordination and call synonymous? Does the call to pastor always lead to ordination, or should it? If you are under a certain age in the UM order, you can assume it does, but your example did not specify age. Even Local Pastor's that answer the call as a "second career" will require educational hurdles and a litmus test with the DCOM/BOM. Hmmmmmm? Where did those terms hurdles and tests come from?

Gary Taylor

I am a United Methodist pastor but not ordained. I became a Local Licensed Pastor after years of growing in my love of God and neighbor as a member of several United Methodist churches. (I did not grow up as a UM'er.) I am now an Associate Member of the Minnesota Annual Conference. I like the fact that the United Methodist Church has an alternate path to entering pastoral/parish ministry. I also appreciate the rigorousness of Course of Study required for Local Licensed Pastors (I went to Saint Paul School of Theology) and of the Board of Ordained Ministry as I sought my Associate Membership. I know that this probably doesn't answer your question, but I hope we remember all the non-ordained pastors faithfully serving United Methodist churches throughout the denomination.

Charles R. Rettig

I am considering a more in depth response later because this is such a great question. I think my initial reaction to the whole setup of this blog entry is to think about the star athlete that truly believes the success of the team is entirely because of them. United Methodism historically is not a very comfortable place for the Superstar who sees ministry as measured in what's in it for me, and how much can I do for the kingdom of God. Assuming that the person asking the question of me is a person of humility willing to be a team player, then all of the reasons so quickly dismissed by our questioner seems to be deeply and profoundly valid, especially when taken together as a package - Our theology is perfect for this generation to hear, the appointment system, and clergy care packages, free pastors for the gospel instead of raising funds and pleasing the people with the checkbooks, and having a Wesleyan, Methodist, Brethren, United Methodist pedigree is of value (although I was raised heathen or a cultural christin). But, bottom line, is the call of Christ and how I percieve it. As one who had other opportunities, God seemed simply to say to me, be a United Methodist, despite its weaknesses, its where I want you to serve.

Paul Clay

I am ordained in the United Church of Christ, currently attending a UMC.

I would ask: Why are you asking?

On some level, do you want to remain in the UMC and want to clarify your reasons? Are you trying to understand the religious implications what you are considering? Are you asking for my wisdom and experience, some hints of the hidden dangers and distractions that you will find in ministry? Do you want someone to say "no" if it is a bad idea that seems good? Do you want direction? Do you want blessing? Do you want to be sent? Do you want to maintain relationship even as you go?

Being in a religious community helps us to clarify our reasons, understand our faith in ever changing ways, share wisdom and experience, guide each other, and sometimes protect each other from our own foolishness. We listen to each other, pray, and discuss to discern and say "amen" to each other's callings. We send, and we bless. And sometimes, we say farewell, until we meet again.

The church discerns its faith and calling as a whole, decides on patterns of organization and leadership, sets priorities and shares resources. Ordination recognizes God's will for a person, but also gives an authorization, a recommendation, a set of ethical guidelines, and some protection for those who work within the rules. The church has to have consistency in how it ordains, within its best faith and wisdom of the moment. So we can't just ordain entirely at will.

So, my friend, you may not be an ordained minister, but you are thinking like an evangelist. How may we help you? How may we bless you? And if you go, if you someday feel like you are very far from home, remember that home is still here.

Aarontiger.wordpress.com

As a near graduate of seminary and a commissioned elder in the Oklahoma conference, I would start by talking about the connectional nature of the church especially ministries like UMCOR. Being a part of the UMC is being a part of something bigger than a local church, but we are a global church that is engaged in ministry throughout the world.

While there is the possibility that one could get sent to middle-or-nowhere, USA, there is also the possibility that when the systems works well, church leaders can identify one's gifts and affinity and match them up in a community that you may not know by yourself, and they can resource you in many ways that you cannot do by yourself.

I would also say that now is a good time to be joining the church, because the UMC is keenly aware that if we do not do things differently, then we will slowly die. There is a receptiveness to new ideas and especially churches through the initiative of Path 1.

Finally, I would agree with Matt Judkins. It ultimately comes down to being called to be a leader in this denomination.

Rev Craig Green

As others have shared, the likelyhood of any Jesus-loving Spirit-empowered leader being willing to jump through the excessive hoops of our ordination process apart from a strong and clear call to U.M. pastoral ministry would be next to zero. But for fun, let's assume there is a call to endure the system for the sake of the ministry...

A United Methoidst Elder enjoys:

- True freedom to preach the Word without fear of being fired. I spend about 25% of my time praying with greiving pastor friends who have been fired by their church--denominational churches, non-denom churches, independednt chureches, etc. When a church is locally "owned" and operated, the pastor is an employee who WILL get fired when they tick off the "pillar" folks...

A "Big Box" theology. We can baptize by immersion, but we don't HAVE to. We get to pray in tongues, but don't HAVE to in order to prove something. We can use liturgy without being owned by it, and we can use various translations of the Bible without fear of reprisal. Women are actually treated as equally redeemed believers, rather than as 2nd-class citizens...

Accountability. To be in authority, you must be under authority. U.M. pastors enjoy true accountability in a system that is actually biblically based. Accountability doesn't mean being an employee in fear of loosing a job; it means being a "Timothy" with a "Paul" to lean on...

Of course, I can say all this because I'm a U.M. Elder in the South with a Spirit-filled D.S. and Bishop. I know I have it better than most. But for all the goofy junk in our system, there are some real pluses...

Jen Luanne

wow! One youth who grew up in our UM church did in fact decide to become ordained in the Presbyterian USA faith instead of UMC... I can't blame him one bit! Having been a member of and worked for both denominations in my lifetime, the churches who interview and call their own pastors rather than having them appointed seem to be much stronger, accomplish more over the long-term, have happier members, happier support staff, the pastors seem happier, and even the pastors families seem to be happier.

So, if that person asked me... I'd probably tell him/her to consider other denominations before deciding.

Jack Horner

I truly believe God opens doors for each of us that allow us to grow closer to finding His Truth. The Pentecostal church was the church of my childhood and youth. I learned the scriptures there and grew as a Christian; I accepted Jesus at the young age of 6. However I gradually attended and became a Baptist but not a very good one. It just didn't fit. When I found the United Methodist Church it was like coming home.

Everyone has to find their "home". The UMC is not for everyone. Should you be ordained in the United Methodist Church? Only God knows.

Stan Buck

Thanks Mark for inviting this input - interesting comments so far! So here's my take ...

* It's not about the United Methodist Church, it's about following the call of Jesus in your life! If that happens to be in the UM Church - then don't be disobedient to that call. (Like you Mark, I heard that call in the UMC and have been nurtured in the UMC - and my ministry has been supported in the UMC - by Bishops, District Superintendents, Pastors, and Lay People. I was even mentored by a guy who used to pastor Farmland United Methodist Church!)

* The United Methodist Church is an apostolic ministry! Our pastors are "sent" like Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus - we're not simply "hired" or "fired" by a church board. In my mind, this is more biblical and strategic - a United Methodist Pastor is given authority to preach the word and lead the local church without fear of a "vote of the membership" - I've watched friends who have planted other churches and labored diligently, only to be "fired" by a mob mentality of church people. Every system has it's issues! I welcome the accountability of an overseer. I am not my own, I've been bought with a price! As a UM Pastor I serve under apostolic authority!

* The United Methodist Church is a sleeping giant! If high-capacity leaders would like to impact the world of Christ, the UM Church has remarkable potential. Admittedly, we have significant issues which I trust will be addressed on other posts - but we have significant resources "in place" around the nation and around the world! I've seen these first hand in countries around the world - and we have credibility in many places already - what we are short of (in my opinion) are the kind of high-capacity leaders that started this movement. We've been overcome by low-capacity managers. While high-capacity leaders are often viewed with suspicion, they are also given great freedom - GCC is a case in point!

In the end I would say to the leader in Starbucks ... follow Jesus where he is calling you ... and if you feel called to serve in the part of the Kingdom that is connected to United Methodism, let's put our heads and our hearts together and change eternity for God's glory!

AK

As a lay person who spent about 38 years in the United Methodist Church...I can't make ANY argument why one would go into the Methodist church as a clergy... I found the "system" to be very broken and a good many of the people (DS, Bishop, several pastors) to be either lazy, manipulative or just downright not trustworthy. You are being held up as the shining example by the UMC of what can be.. but just how helpful and cooperative were they when you started?

Casey Taylor

1) CALLING You go where God calls. I've heard of others who sensed God calling them to the Anglican church, etc. (Todd Hunter?)

2) OPPORTUNITY I think the UMC has the potential to leverage its good will in communities and its resources for missional purposes. However, it will take many necessary conflicts to redirect energies, focus and resources away from unfruitful activities toward things that make more and better disciples. Example: convincing entrenched powers that 20 million spent on advertising might be better used to plant new churches. Strong, growing leaders with tenacity and thick skins are needed.

All the things you mentioned about "connections" and John Wesley are spot on. Who needs to be United Methodist to be Wesleyan?

Jimmy Towson

Mark, I wouldn't pass over the "we need you" lame explanation too quickly. Could it be that God is calling visionary leaders into the UMC to restore vitality, make much-needed changes and provide a vision for the church at large? God called Moses, Jonah & others to a location (a specific place to live out the call upon their lives.)

As a lifelong Methodist who entered the ministry at age 45 - I have seen the church from both sides of the pulpit and understand more than ever the need for change. I believe the UMC still has incredible potential to make a huge difference in the local communities and around the world.

We need serious changes in the ordination process or we will lose potential leaders with incredible gifts that could bring about the leadership we need.

So, why be ordained in the UMC> "Because of the potential to shape the denomination and the Kingdom."

Jimmy Towson
Elder, South GA UMC

Rick Weber

I am a Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Roman Catholic retired college instructor who became a Certified Lay Minister assigned to two very small rural UMC churches that were dying and ready to be closed by the Conference. I agreed five years ago to temporarily fill the pulpit as they went through the closing down process. I had no previous ministry experience. I did not feel a call. I was just helping out. Five years later, however, both churches are flourishing and I am still there. I can't imagine doing anything else. As one writer mentioned above, this is a job that I look forward to each day. I want to go to work.

But I am not a Methodist and after five years of meetings, conferences, and the like, I have no intention of becoming a participating Methodist leader. I no longer attend annual conferences and if forced to go, I would resign. These meetings, these attempts to be "connected", are a massive waste of time. Not one that I previously attended had anything to do with our situation (small, rural congregations) nor provided anything of value helpful in our ministry. The meetings either focused on the large, urban churches or focused on the UMC bureaucracy. Many meetings also tried to force us into some else's idea of what contributed to church growth. No one ever asked us what we found to be success in our work that resulted in both of our churches surviving and flourishing. Not once we were asked.

Loyd George once said that if you want to be a leader, find a parade and get in front of it. That would be my response to this questioner. Find a parade, one that fits your gifts, one that appears to fulfill God's purpose for you, and then get in front of it. That might be the UMC. Then again, it might not.

Mark

As a young UMC pastor that considered going "elsewhere"...

1. I do believe in Wesleyan theology, so that narrowed down the field. After exploring Reformed and Evangelical (as opposed to evangelical) theologies, I really felt that the Wesleyan heritage was a starting point for me. I fell in love with the Wesleyan insistence on loving God and neighbor...This is too important to skip over.

2. The United Methodist Church is theologically as diverse as it gets. There are "conservative" and "liberal" theologies. There are charismatic, contemporary, traditional, blended, and many other worship styles. That is one thing I love about the UMC: We are a body of Christ that is not one type of Christian; rather, all are welcome at our table. Within every UMC church I've attended, I've always seen a wide range of belief and practice. I do think the range is a peculiarity of the UMC.

3. I believe in the ordination process. Jim Jones, yes THAT Jim Jones with the Kool-Aid, attempted to become a Methodist pastor. He failed the pyschological exam (go figure). UMC pastors have faults, but the process helps us monitor who is in leadership positions. The process is one of selective mentoring, and I believe in it 100%. It scares me that some denominations have people with mentoring or education or discipleship being ordained.

4. We are a global church that works ecumenically with other churches; hence, the UMC understands in praxis that it is a part of the greater Body of Christ, the Church.

5. There are structures in the UMC that safeguard the congregations and the pastors to enable ministry. Yes, they can get in the way, but if used well, they enable ministry to flourish, while giving pastors room to lead...even through reluctant times.

Tim Gossett

I suppose I'd have to share my own story to your hypothetical leader/friend, to start. Briefly, I'm a life-long United Methodist (PK, too!), seminary-trained (though in Christian education and Religious Communications, and thus not ordained) in a UM seminary, and have worked in UM congregations for 20 years. I've also spent most of the past year visiting every church in my community (46 so far, with around 8 to go), so I've seen a lot of diversity of worship styles, theology, leadership types, etc. in recent weeks. And, my own theology tends to be more progressive than is true for much of the denomination. But I'm not about to go anywhere, and here are just some of the reasons why.

1. Although I'm sure many would disagree, and the analogy is far from perfect, I think in many ways the UMC is more like Apple than like Microsoft. It's beautiful, quirky, has a centralized theological core and set of social principles that is a strong foundation for contextualized ministry, produces solid seminary grads, is not afraid to embrace the best ideas (e.g. in contemporary biblical scholarship), and has a passion for practical, portable faith. What does Microsoft produce? A product a lot of us end up despising which is derivative, buggy, frequently attacked, expensive, and dated.

2. The UMC believes in expressions of faith that are personal but never private. It's not a me-and-Jesus theology you'll find in UM congregations. At the same time, the UMC is uncompromisingly connectional in structure, because neither persons nor congregations are at their best when they function in a vacuum.

3. Although publishing is a rapidly changing industry, The UM Publishing House is still a vital, large, diverse place that produces a large number of products of exceptional quality. I've seen the care and attention that goes into creating great resources there first-hand, and UMPH cares about supporting congregations, not just selling TO them.

4. I do think there's a certain hubris in the "if I just go plant a church I can go wherever I want to go, and stay there as long I want" mentality. The focus seems more on you as the individual, a visionary force leading a group, rather than on the body to which you can be linked and share your gifts with. Sure, it's possible to be incredibly "successful" when you're on you're own (Joel Osteen comes to mind), but it's also possible to easily preach a watered-down message once you step outside a tradition (again, Osteen fits the bill.)

5. It has been mentioned many times before by others, but I'd echo the reality that the UMC has an incredible number of ministries that center around compassion and justice. I LOVE the fact, for example, that when I was a youth director there were so many places I could easily connect to during youth trips. I also love the fact that the UMC is the only denomination with a building near our nation's capitol. Our missionaries around the world do amazing work, and the time we spend at General Conference and in Annual Conferences to focus on social justice concerns is not to me a waste of time but instead is a sign of the importance we place on such matters.

6. We live in stormy times—culturally, politically, environmentally, spiritually, etc. Leonard Sweet (a United Methodist) talks about the way to navigate in such times (literally and figuratively): cast your anchor (tradition) forward and pull the boat (the church) ahead. We don't drop our anchor and hope for the best, or ride the storm out without using an anchor.

Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall

1. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, serving in the UMC challenges my body, mind and soul
2. I was called into ministry and thought I would become UM cause my father and mother were, my grandparents were, but I never realized that it connected me to much more extensive roots, roots that reach back to the words of Jesus to come and follow
3. Most days, I love being a part of the church, I love the events I can go to with other UM pastors who are struggling and succeeding at following their calls. We share war stories, pains and disappointments, times of great joy and hope, and in addition I am free to share in the ecumenical circle of my community and this is another place to share with pastors and laity who are working for peace and justice
4. Other days, when I want to give up and go to work for Starbucks, I can share my doubts and failure with others and are understood
5. I loved traveling to South Africa to work on a mission trip, I joined with others to build a Methodist Church there, and felt a connection to their work, and wanted to support them with prayer and they with me. I feel connected to Methodists oversees and who work as full time missionaries, who are working to bring the gospel and partner with communities to make a peaceful world
6. You never know who you will meet at UM gatherings, there are such a diversity and all kinds of theological perspectives that both challenge me and help me grow in my faith.
7.I will be with you either way, I hope you will continue to share a cup of coffee and let me know that you are doing and thinking, I care about your journey no matter what you decide
8. When you follow the call you may not ever know where the next bend in the road will take you, but God will be with you no matter where you go.

Edsedge

I think the response has to do with call and discernment. The type of person that you are referring to is someone who is obviously up for a challenge and willing to take the risk in order to make an impact! Someone like that may be called to start a nondenominational church ... or they may be called to effect visionary reform within one of the historical movements of Christendom. I would share with the individual that in my opinion the way we "do" church is going to be very different within the next 10 - 15 or even 20 years. I am not referring to music styles or worship styles (although these will be impacted); I am referring to the "how" of doing church. None of us know what that will look like... However, in the UM there are all sorts of possibilities and opportunities for passionate persons of God who possess a heart for those who have not yet responded to God's grace. These passionate persons will help guide and fashion what we will look like as we continue to be a community that lives out our faith through our hands, mind, & heart. Is this person you are talking with up for the challenge?

B. Matthews

Because of the people. The United Methodist Church is full of hungry people who want to be part of the Kingdom of God. They have an openness to learning as well as a freedom from some of the religious junk that other denominations/non-denominations have.

These Christians are waiting to be trained, inspired and empowered by God's Spirit. The UMC contains a wealth of resources in its people, doctrine, structure, and openness to women in ministry.

Mike

I am an ordained elder in my early 30's. My advice, in a nutshell, is this: If you are called and gifted as a leader to serve and equip the local church, God can and will use you to make a powerful impact for His Kingdom in the UMC. My personal experience of leading the local church has been very fruitful and rewarding. At the same time, my personal experience of the frustrating ordination process, enduring incompetant or ideological DS's and bishops, and limiting the influence of the larger denominational bureaucracy in my local setting, has been an immense challenge. I say all of this to make the point that strong leaders called to the local church, as the hypothetical leader mentioned above, who keep their passion and focus on serving and equipping the local church, will likely experience great potential for growth. We have many fine examples of such great leaders serving now-great churches in our system. Our churches are stable, often located in areas of potential missional growth, and are sleeping giants often waiting to be awakened by strong and capable leadership. I say this only because I have seen it happen. Our poor leaders wallow in bureaucracy, or spend energy on agendas that do not create Jesus-follwers. Our great leaders are out there making disciples and joining God's mission in the world. The leader mentioned above can use all of his/her great prior experiences and put them to practice, if s/he has the determination and strength to remain true to the calling of serving and equipping the local church.

Steveheyduck

First, I'm impressed such a person would ask me for a few good reasons to be ordained in TUMC. That this person asked me implies his/her respect for me, my ministry, and my theology (or at least some subset thereof).

So, why am I United Methodist? First and foremost because this is the denomination I was brought up in. I no more chose to be United Methodist than the carrot sticks chose to be in the salad bar.

There is something about recognizing where you are, what traditions you are brought up in, that helps a person come to grips with an understanding that even what seem to be our choices are not entirely OUR choices.

I have a lot of respect for Alasdair MacIntyre's definition of "tradition," which is a "socially embodied argument carried out over time." I have been within the United Methodist tradition since the early 70's.

So, if United Methodism is a socially embodied argument carried out over time, what are we arguing for? What are we arguing against?

First, we most admit, as United Methodists, that we argue, or struggle, a lot as a denomination. Some may say this is a negative characteristic, but I find it refreshing in the face of a culture that would have us believe that all choices are like picking ingredients from a salad bar that we struggle as a Church and still remain the Church.

If there is any truth for today in God's renaming Jacob as Israel, which means "struggles with God and prevails," I think there is something good about being a tradition that struggles together.

I think we, as a tradition, also continue the Wesleyan heritage of struggling to unite knowledge and vital piety.

Now, as to why one would ask "why I would place myself under the appointment of a bishop – who could send me anywhere and move me at any time.”

Bob Dylan acknowledged in the 1970s that you "Gotta Serve Somebody." http://is.gd/bktyp I see our system of episcopal appointment as one way of remaining aware that we are, I am, answerable to others.

At this point my hypothetical answer would give way to hypothetical dialogue.

Steveheyduck

P.S. I am a 46 year old Elder, and have been an Elder since 1991

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